On the 3rd August my little corner of the internet turned four years old. A Brummie Home and Abroad was born out of a TravelPod online diary that I’d used to document all my trips from 2010-2015, which meant that a large part of Year One was spent transferring all the earlier blogs over – no easy auto-migration here. I knew little about blogging back then, learning as I went along, so I though I’d share 10 things I’ve learned along the way.
Of course we all obsess a little over stats. Which posts are popular, which social media channels are best for click-throughs, what our DA is (for non-bloggers, DA is a score which denotes how reliable the page is according to Google. I’m currently 22/100 – which is actually pretty good for someone who generally doesn’t give two hoots for keywords or SEO or the like). I’ve seen blogs with thousands – nay hundreds of thousands – of followers, where the writing, quite frankly is shit. I’ve also seen blogs with just a few hundred followers who have the most engaging, eloquent writing this side of a Man Booker Prize. Chasing new followers can be a frustrating and thankless task, but I personally prefer to write for my small but engaged readership. You know who you are. Tell your friends.
I don’t get much love on Instagram, but to be honest I don’t invest the time in it that would possibly yield more. I’m likely to spam you with photos if I’m on holiday, then you won’t hear from me again for two weeks. I’ll carefully curate a hashtag list – and then ignore it completely. I’ll have a lovely subtle colour theme (hello Stinson & Gingham filters) for a while and then whack a neon coloured post on my feed, totally ruining the effect. You can check out my grid here for more evidence of my slapdash approach to Instagram.
On the subject of Instagram, you’re not going to catch me doing many talk-to-the-camera pieces…. you may get an occasional vid of my feet walking down a street, or my face concealed by a burger or a cocktail, but on the whole I prefer to be a faceless/voiceless entity on Instagram stories. I’m not spontaneous enough to talk naturally, and would spend ages trying to get the right tone of voice (not too Brummie, not too fake posh) or trying to conceal the freckle cluster on one cheek, or the slightly buck-teeth, or the never-neat-and-tidy-unless-I’ve-just-come-from-the-hairdresser-hair. None of which particularly bother me in real life but the camera seem to emphasise 100-fold. So similarly, you won’t find me gracing your YouTube channels any time soon either.
Let’s clear up the “freebies” myth. I don’t get anything “free”. Yes, I’m invited to the press night of lots of shows at the Alexandra Theatre but that comes with the caveat that I post a review within 24 hours. Bearing in mind that I work full-time, this either means a late night after the show, or pulling something together in the hour or so between getting home from work and the deadline. Same with the odd food and drink event – free grub usually means an obligation to review, which means taking and editing photos, remembering to make notes on what you’re eating, and providing a live social media commentary. Occasionally I’m invited without obligation to review – Head of Steam and Flight Club come to mind – but if I enjoy an event, then I’m highly likely to write about it anyway.
Last summer I was approached by a holiday villa company to write a sponsored post. For the uninitiated, this means I was paid to write a blog post on A Brummie Home and Abroad incorporating details of their company. Whoop whoop! I thought I’d finally hit the big-time. In the interest of transparency, I earned £75 for this. That’s a week’s grocery shopping. Or our monthly leccy bill. And then I didn’t earn another penny from sponsored content for another six months. That £75 soon ran out. This year I’ve worked with two big-name brands in the UK travel industry, but that takes my earnings from sponsored contents to a grand total of £275. Not enough to give up the day job by any means.
Which is probably why I’ve only earned £275 in sponsored content in the past 12 months. Considering that writing is a huge passion of mine, putting together a pitch email makes my fingers go all wobbly and my mental vocabulary burst into flames. I could probably write a wonderful pitch email about you without thinking. After all, you’re amazing. All A Brummie Home and Abroad readers are. But writing about me, and why I’m amazing? Nope. Plus I’m conscious of all those emails and messages that go viral when an “influencer” requests free stuff – remember Gareth Gates-gate?
No matter how many times I read and proof-read, you can guarantee I’ll notice a glaring spelling or grammar error once a blog post has been released out into the world. If there are any in this blog post then I promise they have been left in on purpose to prove my point.
Ma Lee reads my blog. Pa Lee reads my blog. Mr Fletche sometimes reads my blog. But likes and comments and shares show me that other people are reading too. And not just people that share one of my two surnames. Largely thanks to a Facebook group (that sadly no longer exists, RIP Big Up Your Blog) I got to connect with a whole bunch of other bloggers. Not only travel bloggers but bloggers with a wide range of niches. Not only UK bloggers, but bloggers from around the world. In the past four years I’ve watched these bloggers grow: move house, move countries, have babies, publish books and continue to write great blogs. And in Birmingham, there’s a great group of bloggers, which means that going to local events inevitably mean that you’ll end up bumping into someone you know. Blogging – despite being a favoured pastime of introverts – doesn’t have to be anti-social; in fact, it can be quite the opposite.
It’s boring I know, but the “successful” posts are the informative ones with all the details and the nice keywords that Google likes. Sandra out there doesn’t want to read about the internal battle in my mind about steak or seafood. She doesn’t want to hear about how I once dropped an ice cream tub on the floor then picked it up and ate it. She doesn’t want to know how I cried all the way up (and down) Snowdon. Sandra wants the facts. The hows and the whens and wheres. Sandra’s not interested in the whys. However. Travel Diaries are where I started. And sometimes I chat shit in them (although I’d rather call it an outpouring of the internal monologue constantly chattering on in my brain). And these are my favourite kind of posts to write and to read. You want facts and figures? Use Google or other search engine of choice. You want to know what I had for tea? Come right in.
But stick some of those useful posts in anyway. Google likes it.
Sometimes its just a blog title on my notes app of choice (Evernote). Sometimes it’s a fully-formed blog post as a WordPress draft (which is exactly how this one started). Take inspiration from other people’s posts (but don’t copy, cos that’s definitely not allowed) and take time to thank them for the inspiration. One of my favourite blog posts was written at Inverness airport whilst waiting for a delayed flight. Most of my Malta blogs were written in my lunch hour from work. Flights or car/train rides are great places to write, especially if there’s no internet to distract. Use prompts and link-ups for inspiration. The blog post might not be there now but it may well come later.
No-one will miss it if I don’t blog for a while. I see social media posts saying “I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a while” or “Did you miss me?” And do you know what? Generally I haven’t even noticed. Having a voice and putting things out there on the world wide web is a privilege and a choice. I blog because I love to write, and it’s nice if some people like to read what I write. But sometimes, I don’t have anything profound to say, or I haven’t been travelling, or, you know, life stuff. And that’s okay.
United Kingdom (Hello!)
United States (Howdy!)
Big Booty in Birmingham. Which of course led them to this post. Might not be what they were hoping for.